Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mini-sandpit 3: ‘Behaviour change in urban environments’

Date: Friday 6th March 2015

Time: 12pm – 5.15pm

Venue: Red Loop, Middlesex University, Boulevard Drive, Aerodrome Road, London, NW9 5QZ.

AN INVITATION FROM MARK GRAY, DICK COMLEY: 'MINI-SANDPIT', COMMITTEE ROOM 3 Facilitating cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary work will be essential to the new direction for Middlesex.  Middlesex research often crosses not only discipline boundaries but also the boundaries between Schools. While research centres often work successfully across them, these boundaries are not necessarily fixed: research opportunities, for example, may be 'problem centred' and respond to social, economic and cultural needs.

The third "mini-sandpit" workshop on 'Behaviour change in urban environments' will be held on the 6th March, and you are invited to register for the event through the Staff Development Portal<>, for any queries please contact Mita Vaghji in the RKTO (<>). This event has been specially developed by Tom Dickins, Stephen Syrett, Andy Bardill, Meri Juntti, Maeve O’Loughlin, Rob Spencer, Mark Coulson, Stephen Nunn and Lian Lundy. There is a maximum of 50 places available for this third workshop. Researchers in ALL areas are welcome.

The aim of the workshop series is to explore areas for research collaboration in a relaxed, creative environment conducive to identifying scope for joint work across all Schools. Our (short format) sandpits, will focus on themes emerging from current policy discussions, technology choices or wider cultural and social issues.

Programme for the workshop

Informal conversations amongst colleagues in psychology, business, natural sciences and law revealed common interests in urban behaviour and environmental quality (both in their broadest contexts). Several of us are working on a range of complimentary topics and know of various colleagues working in linked urban areas (e.g. behaviour change, community resilience, ecosystem services, smart phone app development etc.) in both research and programme development.

The aim of the ‘open event’ is to:

· see how we can take forward these research and programme development synergies

· collaboratively identify research themes

· co-develop a core list of research questions

· plan to pursue a focused starter project

12:00pm – 12:30pm Informal sandwich lunch followed by a 12:30pm Start.
A chance to register and informally meet colleagues attending the event before the start. Lunch will be provided.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Middlesex University Science and Technology Seminar next week:

Speaker: Ben Dickins (Nottingham Trent University)

Title: Evolution of Small Genomes under Pressure

Date/time/place: 4 March 2015; 3pm; Hendon Campus, room tba

Mutations are the ultimate source of variation for evolution, but in small genomes in particular many mutations are deleterious. The accumulation of deleterious mutations in a population reduces its mean fitness and, if the mutation rate is sufficiently high, can lead to extinction. If lethal mutagenesis is realizable, it could be deployed as an anti-viral strategy and recent work has addressed this in several RNA viruses (e.g., in poliovirus: Graci et al. 2007, and in norovirus: Arias et al., 2014) following on from classic work in HIV (Loeb et al., 1999). I will describe approaches taken in my laboratory at Nottingham Trent University to understand the influence of elevated mutation rates on viral genomes in a single-stranded DNA model organism, the bacteriophage ΦX174.

The persistence of mutant alleles, whether deleterious or not, is also affected by the severity of population “bottlenecks” in which only a small number of individual genomes give rise to subsequent generations. I will describe recent work with colleagues at Penn State University on human mitochondrial DNA. Using samples from apparently healthy family members we applied next-generation sequencing to estimate both the mutation rate and the bottleneck size. This work improves our understanding of this form of inheritance and of how mitochondrial diseases may be transmitted.

I shall explore the evolutionary consequences of mutation in the context of adaptation to environmental change including various forms of “bet hedging” in response to variable environments.

Arias, A., Thorne, L., Goodfellow, I. (2014). Favipiravir elicits antiviral mutagenesis during virus replication in vivo. eLife, 3, e03679.

Graci, J. D., Harki, D. A., Korneeva, V. S., Edathil, J. P., Too, K., Franco, D., Smidansky, E. D., Paul, A. V., Peterson, B. R., Brown, D. M., Loakes, D., Cameron, C. E. (2007). Lethal mutagenesis of poliovirus mediated by a mutagenic pyrimidine analogue. Journal of virology, 81(20), 11256-11266.

Loeb, L. A., Essigmann, J. M., Kazazi, F., Zhang, J., Rose, K. D., Mullins, J. I. (1999). Lethal mutagenesis of HIV with mutagenic nucleoside analogs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96(4), 1492-1497.

Ben Dickins is Lecturer in Molecular Genetics at Nottingham Trent University. During his PhD at the Babraham Institute, University of Cambridge, he worked on the physiological consequences of genomic imprinting at the Gnas locus in mice. In postdoctoral work at Penn State University, he developed methods for polymorphism detection from next-generation sequencing data, applying these to evolving populations of phage. In subsequent work Ben contributed to the mitochondrial DNA sequencing project described above. His research agenda is driven by the expanding capacity to observe evolutionary changes as they occur in real-time and his methods are broadly within the field of “Experimental Evolution”. This is an exciting time in evolutionary biology since hypotheses, which previously could only be developed analytically or tested indirectly, can now be assessed directly and quantitatively.


Please contact Tom Dickins (t.dickins AT if coming from outside the university.

Evolutionary Developmental Biology: Current debates

This satellite meeting, to be held one day before the EHBEA ( Helsinki conference, has been generously sponsored by the Galton Institute, EHBEA, and the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology.

Time: Saturday the 28th of March 2015 (from 9:00-16:00)

Location: University of Helsinki (Fabianinkatu 33, 2nd floor)

Topic:  In recent years there has been much discussion about how to conceptualize the relationship between development and evolution: are developmental trajectories selected for, and how much does development influence evolutionary process?  In this event we will excoriate the fundamental assumptions at work in several influential existing arguments, to look at the view of development within the modern synthesis, and to look at criticisms of this synthesis.

Registration: There is a separate registration fee for this meeting: 50 € for full EHBEA members, 25 € for student EHBEA members and 80 € for everyone else. This includes teas/coffees, buffet lunch, and wine reception. You can sign up for the event by registering and paying the participation fee here Up to 70 participants can register. Registration is on a first come, first served basis. Refunds are not possible. Please note that the registration does not include hotel accommodation.

Speakers and titles:

Open reaction norms and human flexibility
H. Clark Barrett, University of California, Los Angeles

(Epi)mutational dynamics and bet hedging
Ben Dickins, Nottingham Trent University

Information as a loom to weave development and evolution
Sinead English, University of Oxford

Developmental changes in aggression and body size: an evolutionary perspective
Tim W. Fawcett, University of Bristol

Developmental niche construction
Emma Flynn, Durham University

Developmental plasticity in the European starling: Empirical observations and evolutionary interpretations
Daniel Nettle, Newcastle University

Clark Barrett – UCLA
Tom Dickins – Middlesex University
Willem Frankenhuis - Radboud University Nijmegen

Questions: Contact Tom Dickins at

Friday, 13 February 2015

Visiting speaker: Ronald Roberts, Kingston University

Date and time: Thursday, Feb 26, 4:00pm, room C217.

Title: “The new politics of experience"

A lot of what is done in the name of psychotherapy and psychology is driven by motives which are base, shallow and commercial.  Theorising of the human condition too often follows the ideological fashions of the day, which can be described as biological/corporate fundamentalism. This toxic mixture not only mystifies the general public but also makes epistemological slaves of professional psychologists.  The talk will consider the influence of neoliberal capitalism on the divide between academic psychology and the psychotherapeutic art of healing.  One of the consequences of the capitalist domination of experience is that the very voice we employ to articulate our understanding of the human condition, whether in the midst of the therapeutic encounter, reflecting on the therapeutic encounter or theorising it, has become infected with psychology’s hunger for status, power and control, all masked by an ill-judged pretence of neutrality and objectivity.  This has made the relationship between the practical and academic sides of psychology deeply problematic as well as dishonest.

Ron Roberts, Ph.D, C.Psychol, AFBPsS is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Kingston University. He has held previous posts at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of Westminster, King’s College Medical School, University College London, St Bartholomew’s Medical School, Queen Mary College and the Tavistock Institute. He is the author of over 50 refereed publications and six books.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Visiting speaker today - Beatriz Calvo-Merino

Date and time: Wednesday, Feb 11, 4:00pm, room VG02.

Title: “Cognitive embodiment: How your own body shapes perception"

Cognitive neuroscience and philosophy have attributed a special role to our own body and actions during visual perception. This phenomenon is called embodiment. In this talk, I will present different properties of embodiment (at the neural and cognitive levels) in a series of studies that explore (a) the impact of physical/motor expertise (e.g. dancers) in actions observation and action understanding, (b) the role of our own body in the recognition and memory of emotion and actions, (c) and the impact of embodiment on very specifically human ways of seeing (e.g. aesthetic perception).

You can see an interview about the neuroaesthetics of dance here:

You can see her academic website here:

Friday, 6 February 2015

CATS partnership with St Michael's Fellowship

CATS have recently agreed a training and research partnership with St Michael’s Fellowship, an independent provider of both residential and community based family assessment services in London.  Initial training of St Michaels’ staff on the Parenting Role Interview (PRI) has commenced, delivered by Professor Toni Bifulco and Dr Andrea Oskis, and further trainings on the PRI, Attachment Style Interview (ASI), and Childhood Experience of Care & Abuse (CECA) interview will take place over the next few months.  A research project, funded by Middlesex University Psychology Department and led by Dr Richard Barry & Dr Andrea Oskis, aims to evaluate the impact of the use of the PRI on the assessment processes and on staff at St Michael’s, using a combination of semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and family case studies.  This growing partnership provides CATS with an opportunity to evaluate and develop its standardised measures in the context of family assessment and child protection, as well as their use with specific groups such as parents with learning difficulties.